From the Roots of Society to the Fruits of Discipleship
By Joseph Sunde
Jesus calls us to reach beyond an earthbound economics, re-orienting our thinking around a Kingdom-first perspective that requires active spiritual engagement and discernment. Yet even as Christians, we set our sights on the material without first considering what God would have us do.
Alas, transcendent ends will only come from transcendent beginnings, and those beginnings will only serve as a foundation for Kingdom living if we take the time to rightly imagine God’s design for society and his call for our distinct contribution therein.
As Charlie Self writes in his book, Flourishing Churches and Communities, “cultural, economic, and social institutions are built on transcendent moral foundations,” and rely on spiritually transformed individuals to function and flourish toward God’s ultimate ends. By structuring our institutions around this understanding, we create more opportunity for society to reach past the mere meddling of man.
Rooting our imaginations in transcendent truths opens the door to a broader, fuller approach to “service” itself:
Economic and personal liberties must be united with the rule of law to nurture loving and just expressions and allow all people to flourish. Objective truths, which guide behavior and relationships, do indeed exist. There must be explicit and implicit values that ensure cohesive and prosperous living. The Holy Spirit gives discernment and wisdom, enabling Christians to engage virtuously in commerce and culture without being enslaved by the perversions of liberty caused by rebellion and sin.
Human government is designed to protect God-given (natural) rights, restrain evil, and help steward the public good. Government is subsidiary, exercising its authority and responsibility after personal, familial, religious, and other nearby social institutions flex their proper and more proximate influences. The best policies and practices will only achieve their finest fruit through morally responsible people assuring that this local service is a mark of Christian discipleship. Spirit-empowered churches are crucial for the flourishing of communities and nations. They are God’s primary channels of economic, moral, and spiritual good and must not be overtaken by bureaucracies impersonally dispersing largesse.
In short: Right action requires that we anticipate the possibility of such action.
Again, this requires us to respond as individuals. We can re-strategize and re-organize society all day long, but this in and by itself will not magically flip on the discipleship switch. In the end, it comes down to God’s people being faithful and obedient, actively discerning the Word, listening to the Holy Spirit, and applying each in every area of our lives.
“Spirit-filled believers work hard, participate in the economy and aim to maximize the impact of the gospel upon all areas of society,” writes Self. “But we never lose sight of the fact that all this positive transformation of the whole rests upon transformed individuals who are obedient to the principles of God’s Word and sensitive to the Holy Spirit in the application of truth.”